WHAT IF A SCHOOL OF FISH MOVES INTO A DIFFERENT NATION' S FISHING TERRITORY?
WHAT IF PENGUINS ARE FORCED TO MOVE BEYOND THE LATITUDE OF ZERO WINTER TWILIGHT IN ANTARCTICA DUE TO MELTING SEA ICE?
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR QUITO, ECUADOR, IF TROPICAL PLANTS MOVE UPHILL IN THE HIGH ALTITUDES OF THE ANDES?
We are currently experiencing a global redistribution of life on Earth. Across all ecosystems, species are shifting their ranges in response to climate change in order to track their preferred climatic conditions. The reconfiguration of species communities triggers cascading effects, which travel from local ecosystems to various human-made systems.
Building onto the work of "First Encounters“, the project "Turning the Ecological Gears“ invites to immerse in these entanglements in a journey around the world - from the South Pole over the Andean Mountains and beyond the Arctic Circle.
Featuring the "Cascade of Ecological Momentum“ as an interactive tool at its core, the exhibition displays ecological speculations informed by empirical data. Drafting a framework of relations, the "Cascade of Ecological Momentum" connects datapoints to stories to investigate possible futures for a multi-species community on this planet.
Out of a complex, hybrid dataset of more than 30.000 entries, 6 exemplary range shifting species were selected across taxa, featuring locations around the world: covering Northern and Southern Hemisphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, as well as elevational and latitudinal range shifts. The “Cascade of Ecological Momentum“ functions as a framework to cluster the data blocks into story elements which then produce the narrative.
Each turn of the “ecological gears“ generates a different impact story, showing that each range shift triggers different dynamics and the implications cannot be simply predicted. Therefore, speculating about possible futures by embracing the plurality of paths ahead helps us learn how to live in a rapidly changing, connected world, and how to navigate uncertainty.
The scenarios generated communicate scientific data to a broader public, but even more so generate a feedback loop for scientists, highlighting the worlds of consequences that are attached to the raw data.
Interactive module at the heart of the project - the visitor selects a location to examine, followed by a short film detailing possible impacts of the specific range shift.
Each range shift is depicted in a map, detailing the geopolitical implications. A large-scale diagram on the wall gives an overview of some of the data used to generate the stories, each range shift triggers multiple possible impact stories.
Some of the images in the films were generated through the use of AI as a form of co-creation: speculating together with AI to think not only beyond disciplinary boundaries, but also beyond the horizon of human imagination.
Thanks to the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research for the support!